Reigns: Her Majesty

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It seems the world is a flurry of royal news. Royal babies, royal weddings…and I’m glad to say the virtual world is following suit. What’s it like to be royal? We find out in Reigns: Her Majesty.

The game follows up from the original Reigns but now has you as the Queen. It’s also got a feminist slant to it, although I thought it was more of the humorous  kind rather than the bra-burning variety.

As the queen, you’re presented with a constant stream of peasants…I mean, people… with requests. It’s your job to keep the kingdom as a whole satisfied by choosing one of two pre-ordained responses. Simple, right? Wrong!

I found this out the hard way,  prematurely ending the reign of many an early queen with my careless swiping. You see, it’s all about balance. The length of your reign depends on keeping four factions – Church, People, Military and Treasury  – in your kingdom content. Not happy, not angry, just nicely in the middle where they’re unlikely to burn you, lock you in a tower or have a stampede to declare their undying love for you. That’s right. Getting too positive in any faction is still a bad thing.

So the royal subjects take their turns coming up to you with requests or suggestions. Tilt your response card left or right, and you can see which factions your decision will affect. The problem is, you don’t know whether the effect will be positive or negative until you make the decision. This requires you to try and read more into what your subject is asking for. In some cases, this may mean recalling their back story to better understand the repercussions. I started to understand this concept after killing about twenty-four queens ( I like to think of myself as a slow but steady learner).

This was also where my main frustration in the game was. There was a lot of ambiguity surrounding the outcomes of decisions. Quite often, I’d swipe confidently only to see a faction go quite opposite to what I thought made sense.  Either that or there would be an effect on a faction that didn’t seem at all related to the issue at hand. Either I’m missing something or it’s being deliberately ambiguous. But I’m happy to take the blame for this one because quite honestly, it could just be me. And even if it isn’t, there are so many more layers to love about this game.

In fact by that time I’d killed off twenty-four queens, I’d begun to appreciate how much deeper this supposed Tinder-style game was. I’d find myself caught between balancing the factions and wanting to know more about certain characters. I dismissed would-be lovers and juicy secrets for the sake of trying to survive. As if that wasn’t enough, there were also quests that needed fulfilling to further the story along. Being able to steer conversations to complete a quest was like finding a rare gem and I always felt quite accomplished. But in order to weasel my way there, there was a chance that I would have unbalanced the factions, thus ending the current queen’s reign.

But wait. The ending of a reign doesn’t signal having to restart. You don’t have to despair about trudging through all the scenes you’ve already encountered. This is because your character isn’t limited to a single queen. Instead, the game has you in a sort of out-of-body experience, looking down on each reign as the years pass by. There are the mini dramas of life at court. But there’s also a bigger story that unfolds as each queen gives way to another. It’s this duality that gives Her Majesty such richness.

Apart from the swiping goodness, the game also gives you a five-slot inventory. What’s a queen without her bling, right? After finishing several quests, I found myself the proud owner of a pistol, some perfume  and a chicken bone. I’m still working out what to do with the chicken bone. But the perfume – man – that’s pretty fantastic. Dragging it over a supplicant means that I can have my way. Not all the time though and if used incorrectly, the King appears telling me not to fling things around needlessly. After one such event, I had the satisfaction of derailing his plans to have the entire army clad in velvet.

So I found that playing the queen didn’t mean playing her the way I wanted to. And I think there’s a cleverness in this. Because ultimately, it becomes such a game of going against your instinct to satisfy so-and-so. A political game where you’re the monarch? I think that’s rather fitting.

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